French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen shrugged off market jitters triggered by her good ratings ahead of Sunday’s first round of the presidential election, saying her “serious” programme was meant to work for voters, rather than markets.
Long unfazed by this ballot and what looked like an easy path to re-election for President Emmanuel Macron, markets woke up to the election this week as Le Pen narrowed the gap enough in opinion polls for victory to be within the margin of error.
Le Pen scoffed at what she called “doom-mongering”, telling RTL radio on Thursday that her program was solid and would aim to support business and “give money back to the French” by lowering VAT as well as France’s contribution to the EU budget.
“The policies I want to implement are not meant for the stock markets, which will be a change from Emmanuel Macron,” she said, adding: “It’s not the markets that create jobs, it’s not international finance.”
Macron is still ahead in all opinion polls, and still seen as the most likely winner. But his late start with a lacklustre campaign has pushed even some in his camp to say a win for Le Pen could be possible.
A probable high level of abstention adds uncertainty.
This, in turn, helped push France’s borrowing costs up on Wednesday, with the 5-year yield near its highest since 2014 , and the 30-year yield getting close to its highest since 2019 , before dipping on Thursday.
The pro-business Institut Montaigne think-tank has said Le Pen’s programme, which aims to lower the retirement age to 60 and cut taxes on energy, could come in at an extra cost 75% higher than she estimates.
France’s already strained budget deficit could rise by a further 102 billion euros ($111 billion), for a debt-to-gross domestic product ratio of 7.1% in 2027, the think-tank says.
Macron’s campaign fought back on Thursday on the economic front.
“I want people to realise what France would be like under Marine Le Pen,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told broadcaster Franceinfo. “There would be more inflation,” he said, and more taxes to fund her plan to privatise toll roads.
“And there would be less sovereignty, because we would be allies of Russia, of Vladimir Putin,” he added, attacking Le Pen over her longstanding admiration of the leader – which she has toned down and nuanced since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Macron himself, long focused on Ukraine, is now concentrating his campaign on purchasing power, which Le Pen has successfully focused on for month. He promised on Wednesday to increase pensions.